Leisure and Tourism in Nazi Germany

By: Andreea Gustin

This week’s sources provided a look at fascism from a perspective I had never considered. When thinking of fascism and what made people go along with it, my mind always instantly went to things like force, brutality, harsh restrictions etc. Never did I really consider how tourism or leisure could act as a form of propaganda to appeal to the masses and gain popular consent. Obviously, it is not to say that most people supported fascist regimes during this time, however, as can be seen in sources like Shelly Baranowski’s Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich, the Third Reich and the Kraft durch Freude (KdF) were able to weaponize leisure and tourism in order to persuade citizens to think that the regime had improved their lives and to further the narrative of German superiority. 

This source showcases how leisure activities and tourism were used to create this idealistic image of leadership under the Nazi regime and internally as well as externally create a sense of German nationalism. Hitler’s regime wanted to give German travellers and those travelling from other countries a look at “Aryan superiority”. However, in reality this was an illusion to make it appear as through their living conditions and lifestyles were of a higher level. After having read this week’s sources, it becomes easier to understand why to some, there may have been some sort of appeal in regards to fascism that went beyond ideology. Leisure and travel were instrumentalized to achieve wider Nazi goals and to create a sense of normality in a way to manufacture and maintain popular consent. 

The Culture of Fascism

By Sydney Linholm

Shelley Baranowski’s article Strength Through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich investigates the connection between the Nazi regime and mass consumerism, and how this created a controversy surrounding the Hitler movement. The author discusses how the Nazi party was skeptical of the socialist and American routes to raising living standards through consumption, and instead pushed for mass production to ensure Hitler’s vision of material abundance despite the party’s suspicion of consumption. This discriminated against consumer production and curtailed imports of consumer goods. When thinking about the Third Reich as a fascist regime, this is a classic example of its classification as such because of this phenomena that mass production would ensure material abundance and subsequent continental domination, and in doing so, purposefully rejecting the socialist idea of consumption to increase living standards.

Additionally, it is interesting to look at this when also thinking about Germany as a dominant global power in the 20th century because of the way that the idea of mass production influencing material abundance influencing continental domination functions with the idea of hegemony. Maybe I am just too much of a political science student, but this idea that having material power will directly influence having global power is similar to the realist idea of hegemony, which has a tendency to focus on the material component of hegemonic power and less so on the wilful exercise of leadership component of the theory. This is interesting because of realism’s connections with realpolitik, which was not unseen within Hitler’s regime. This is not to say that realism is an inherently fascist ideology: I am simply making a connection between the realist idea of hegemonic power and Hitler’s belief that material abundance will provide him with global power.

The Culture of Fascism

Sara Dix

It’s interesting how there is more emphasis on the brutality of fascist regimes in history, but the aspect of “leisure” and “tourism” as a form of propaganda is rarely discussed. Baranowski’s article focuses on the organization, Strength Through Joy, during the Nazi regime as a way to build a racial utopia with German tourists. This goes the same for Spain during the 1960s, as Crumbaugh explains.

The Strength Through Joy organization’s goal was to improve the living standards for Germans until living space was achieved. So, it provided leisure activities for people of various as a way to compensate for the wage freezes, longer working hours, and restrictions on private consumption by the German government. Tourism for this organization was an “attempt to create a non-Marxist, non-Fordist, and characteristically Nazi mode of consumption” (Baranowski). This was similar in Spain during the 1960s and it was a form of propaganda that created a sense of normalcy against the background of fascist brutality. The Strength Through Joy organization needed to boost productivity among Germans, but it also enforced the idea of a “master race” by bringing tourists into countries that were doing poorly, such as Italy, and those that were doing well, such as Nordic countries.

Crumbaugh explains that tourism was a device for Spain that includes “the modes of representation associated with both bureaucracy and commercialism” (Crumbaugh). The film he discusses shows that the tourism trope operates as an “invention necessary for its own (re)production” (Crumbaugh). In 1951, the Ministry of Info and Tourism (MIT) was created with the idea that tourism was not just for economic means, but to collect information. This ministry was used to promote a relatively normal and pleasurable environment to cover up a violent government that did not tolerate any liberal freedoms.

Works Cited

Justin Crumbaugh, “Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of
Tourism” in Destination Dictatorship: the Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boom and the
Reinvention of Difference (SUNY Press, 2009), pp. 15-41.

Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third
Reich (Cambridge, 2004), pp. 1-10, pp. 162-98

Weaponizing Cultural Fascism: How Tourism Enabled the Fascist Myth for the Contemporary Far-Right

By Bryce Greer

Vice’s report “Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom” is eye-opening in the portrayal of Francoism in the contemporary period. Shocking the most was the inclusion of Chen, a Chinese immigrant and Franquista, who after being asked about how he, as an immigrant, would have been treated under Franco’s regime, replied: “Of course. In Spain, in Franco’s time, nobody lived badly.” On the contrary, Franco’s regime saw the use of violence, repression, and assisted in the use of concentration camps, executing immigrants and other marginalized communities that did not fit in his nationalist picture for Spain. It is clear, then, that the contemporary far-right sees a spectacle of 20th century fascism that acts as a veneer over its atrocious histories. The fear should be spread to such idea of a weaponized cultural fascism, one deep-rooted in its use of tourism.

Justin Crumbaugh noted that in the 1960s, the Franco regime restyled itself around its economics, attempting to project a positive identification onto its government. After being one of the few remaining Fascist leaders, this restyle came through the form of consumerist tourism, one that created an impression that it took a collective Spanish population to develop. Hence, tourism created a sense of a Spanish identity, the economic boom led to the soft dictatorial rule, and yet still fascist. Its combination of tourism to information, through films, newsreels, etc., led to a popular appeal to the Franco regime, one that brought Spain to its rightful glory. The created Spanish myth of an economically stable Spain across all classes was brought forward by tourism, yet the beaches of Spain did not look the same as the common village on the regime’s margins. Clear then, was the weaponizing of tourism alongside the culture of fascism to create a sense of a good past, one that leaves the contemporary with a nostalgia to the regime’s claimed glory. Fundamentally, Crumbaugh left me wondering about the margins, but perhaps the similarities to Nazi Germany’s Strength Through Joy (KdF) can answer it.

While Chen claimed that “you can’t put Franco together with Hitler” and that they have different stories, I found the same narrative he holds nostalgia for in Franco’s regime had similar popular appeal in Nazi Germany’s KdF. In its own form of tourism, KdF created the impression of a harmonized class and a united racial community for Germans. Through photographs, and by using undercover surveillance, KdF was able to give to the desires of the working class. On the local level, however, the complaints saw the marginalized communities continue to suffer. There was disunity in social statuses with class tension revealed through the different attitudes given to KdF tourists as opposed to private tourists. Yet, as an organization, it survived through its interplay with propaganda, like the Franco regime.

In the end, I am still left wondering how tourism became used by fascist groups to create a now contemporary nostalgia, however, to explain people like Chen and other far-right individuals, stability through the fabrication of tourism can easily create a spectacle in belief of a return to what they would call “good.”

Works Cited:

Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third
Reich (Cambridge, 2004)

Justin Crumbaugh, “Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of
Tourism” in Destination Dictatorship: the Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boom and the
Reinvention of Difference (SUNY Press, 2009)

Vice International, “Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom,” Vice. YouTube (Sept. 17th 2020). Accessed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqKSXPiGe7U

The Shortcomings of Kraft durch Freude and of Baranowski

By: WIllem Nesbitt

With the return of Germany to the world stage in the 1930s, this time under the leadership of the Nazi regime, the Nazi’s sought to establish the German people as superior, strong, and Ayran, both internally and externally. Whether through the flexing of athletic might at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, or, as seen in Shelley Baranowski’s Strength Through Joy, through establishing nationalist, Ayran ideals via vacations for workers to other countries, the Nazi regime wished to validate their alternative to American “Fordism” and Soviet leftism.

            For all of the seemingly self-proclaimed bravado of the Nazi organization Kraft durch Freude established within Baranowski’s introduction, Chapter 5 paints KdF in a different light, one that I feel the author failed to conclude into a potentially interesting point on the organization and thereby the regime, despite spending most of the chapter discussing it. Baranowski relays stories of KdF tourists displeased with their accommodations and experiences, ranging from being upset over being poured a lesser quality coffee, to Westphalian and Silesian KdF tourists nearly coming to blows over some name-calling, and at one point, states that KdF customers were served “a one-course dish to keep [the restauranteur’s] costs in line with KdF’s reimbursement for the meal” (page 166). This single line, of which Baranowski quickly moves on from to discuss class and racial issues within KdF tours, alludes to the potential fact that KdF and the Nazi regime were falling short. If the intention for this program was to both show foreigners the successes of the German people and to teach the workers who went on these trips that their work was resulting in a successful and prosperous nation, then most surely their meals should have been at the very least equivalent to those of the “private” tourists Baranowski contrasts the KdF tourists with. Although the author makes this point, they fail to further extract an argument from it, one such as that the KdF organization was potentially underfunded, or that, like many other endeavours by the Nazi regime, KdF was simply mismanaged and too brash in its intentions, unable to hold up its promises. For all the interesting anecdotes and insights of Baranowski’s writing, they seem to fail to coalesce these points into a tangible argument, leaving the reader wanting for a more satisfying conclusion.

Spying, Leisure, and Subversion: How the ‘Strength Through Joy’ Program Could Have Worked Against the Nazi Reich

By Austin Pellizzer

In the mid-1930s, with the Nazi regime’s economic, social, and political atmosphere being stronger and prosperous than ever, offering its citizens an opportunity to travel outside its borders became a new and exciting experience for many of Germany’s own. Shelley Baranowski’s article, Strength Through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich, sheds light on the phenomena of how freedom and state surveillance can work hand-in-hand. In 1936, with much of the state coming under suspicion and paranoia of its citizens working to undermine its National Socialist goals (162-63), the world of state surveillance and across-class leisure converged into one (164). These trips were a way for Hitler’s regime to present the myth of Aryan superiority even in the allied nations such as Italy and Portugal (192). The goal of attempting to portray the German Reich as superior in living standards for all citizens (165) demonstrated how the Reich was steadfast in giving the illusion of order and superiority. 

With this generally popular program coming to an end due to the start of World War Two, Baranowski leaves one question wanting and without explanation. To what extent (if at any) did subversive and anti-governmental actions through espionage or other anti-Nazi networks work within this international sphere? Did said networks exist in a broader context? if they did, how did they manage?. While I understand how state-sponsored leisure and international programs would be closely monitoring its members actions, it would be interesting to see if any working-class people who Baranowski notes as having a prone attitude to supporting marxism (195) would have attempted to push back against the state. Lastly, as we see in the later war years, underground networks were a key facet which aided the downfall of this fascist regime across Europe. However, the question is, when did it all start?

Works Cited

Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the ThirdReich(Cambridge, 2004), pp. 1-10, pp. 162-98

PR in fascism

The videos about the Spanish fandom of Franco’s fascism and German clothes symbolizing the ideas of the extreme far-right showed a contemporary cultural and even emotional attachment to far-right movements including fascism in Germany and Spain, to the point where it seems like the participants or rather the ones that spread it are willingly ignoring the atrocities committed under the name of fascism, so that only a romanticized side of the ideology is diffused. A nostalgia, not unlike the one associated with the good sides of communism remembered by the older generation of East European countries, appears to emanate. Acts of dressing with German clothing brands that bring to the fore elements of the fascist Nazi ideology such as the purity of the race, or of going to a café dedicated to the dictator Franco, or to participate in a commemoration of him, can be interpretated as a way to put forth the old iconic symbols of the movement to bring back the same fervor it enjoyed years ago, and maybe voluntarily only focusing on the components that serve the actual resurgences (such as the anti-immigration stance) and putting aside the former extreme actions (concentration camps).

German fascism in the 1930s and then Spanish fascism in the 1960s employed similar tactics of propaganda to try and create craze among the population, as discussed by the articles on tourism. It is interesting to note the different approaches of the two countries. Baranovski’s article depicts cruises organized by the Nazi party destined to the workers in order to promote, and kind of present to the local population of the countries visited, the German nation as a united one. In this line of thought, there were efforts in order for the passengers to mingle in ships apparently devoid of social segregation, or at least tentatively hidden. The reality said otherwise, as people stayed with others from their native region, and Party members and people from different hierarchical backgrounds behaved accordingly and had access to privileges. This traveling enabled Germans to witness for themselves their racial superiority compared to other populations, and in a public representation way, to showcase it, in an environment of propaganda where leisure and enjoyment were reserved to the ones reaching the racial standards, and the ones below were deprived of it. The analysis of German photographs of Umbach supports this comparison between people, as Germans are pictured in advantageous ways and other population are captured in lazy moments for example. These kinds of photographs also support the idea of presenting fascism in a good and positive way, which aligns with today’s romanticizing of it.

While Germans traveled outside, Franco’s Spain brought tourists in, as explained by Crumbaugh’s article. The positive image of the country was meant to be achieved by tourist coming in to visit, and the fact that people could travel was meant to show that there was freedom under the regime. The goal was to instill a sense of national pride that only fascism could bring, as with Germany. As recent (but pre-pandemic) protests against mass tourism in Barcelona happen (see https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexledsom/2019/07/12/barcelona-is-ready-to-shut-out-tourists/?sh=4c3d940f5546), one can conclude with a stretch that maybe the job was done and carried on a little too well and Spain ended up victim to its own campaign of promoting tourism!

On an amusing side note, the German fascist cruises show that surveillance by infiltration was not exclusively a feature of the communist regimes as they are well known for! Clearly all political regimes need inside informers and some got lucky and ended up with a paid vacation.

Works cited:

Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the ThirdReich(Cambridge, 2004), pp. 1-10, pp. 162-98

Justin Crumbaugh, “Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of Tourism” in Destination Dictatorship: the Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boomand the Reinvention of Difference (SUNY Press, 2009), pp.15-41.

Maiken Umbach, “Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in GermanPhoto Albums, 1933-1945” Central European History Vol. 48, Special Issue 3 (Photography and Twentieth-Century German History): 335-365.

Cynthia Miller-Idris, “The Extreme Gone Mainstream” IIITMedia lecture, May 2018https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHYcakSDUCE

Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqKSXPiGe7U

Discrimination in Wartime Fascism

Étienne Plourde

Wartime fascism, it turns out, had very few absolute tenets.

Even the idea of racial supremacy – perhaps the first, infamous, element that will come to the mind of most asked about fascism – was warped to fit the needs of the regime. From one side of the mouth, the fascist State spouted racist tropes to manipulate its population towards the New Men and the New Women it desired; from the other, it sought to arouse collective consciousness amongst, and bolster the position of, those very groups it denigrated.

 That isn’t to say, of course, that the entirety of fascist bigotry was a psychological game; to put it quite coldly, the sheer scale of the Holocaust – and the documented ways in which it detracted from Germany’s war effort – make it clear that fascist rhetoric on race was more than just a populist flourish.

At the same time as the systematic extermination of Jews was taking place, though, Nazi Berlin was backing ethnic separatists seeking to free their homelands in the Global South from European imperialists. As elaborated upon by Motadel, Germany offered a sort of asylum to political dissidents from British India, French Africa, and Russian Central Asia, and amplified their voices as it saw fit – not unlike the way in which the Second Reich had steered Communist dissidents to tsarist Russia to destabilize its foe during the First World War.

As Motadel continues in an unrelated New York Times column, there is room for ‘international nationalism’: “global cooperation among supposedly homogeneous, organically grown, closed national communities – call it ‘reactionary cosmopolitanism’.” The driving force behind these ‘supposedly homogeneous’ communities, and the tenet on which fascism could not compromise, was sexism.

Ben-Ghiat illustrates this most clearly by describing the punishment for miscegenation – sexual relations between races – in the Ethiopian colony of fascist Italy. From 1937 onwards, an Italian man found guilty of sexual relations with an African woman would be sentenced to five years in prison. An Italian woman in the same situation would be publicly whipped and sent to a concentration camp.

Despite this humiliation of the individual, state media endeavored to emphasize the virtue of the Italian Man and Woman as a whole, by actively painting the other partner – African men and women, whether or not they participated in miscegenation – as aggressively hypersexual creatures and thus blaming them for this ‘transgression’. Ben-Ghiat cites the case of one contemporary Italian movie, where an African warchief is shown kidnapping a European woman to force her into marriage. In the English dubbing, the accusation is mistranslated, instead making an even more blunt accusation that he is kidnapping her to rape her.  

This ‘crime’ of ‘stealing’ a woman ‘from’ ‘her race’ (with, yes, scare quotes around every word in that phrase) is a recurring theme in fascist media, presented as an aggression against the purity of the race and the chastity of the woman, and depriving a New fascist Man of the wife and virility he was promised in exchange for his allegiance to this new State.

Racism is an instrument of fascism, but it is only an instrument. It can be retooled and redefined to fit the geopolitical needs of the State at the time.

Sexism, on the other hand, is an immutable part of the social contract of fascism. The woman is a tool of the state, used to grow the population and traded to buy the allegiance of men; anything that threatens that grand bargain is an existential threat, and the fascist State must – as it did – exert considerable effort to reinstall its authority.

Motadel, D. (2019, July 3). The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism – But They Depend on It. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/opinion/the-surprising-history-of-nationalist-internationalism.html

Motadel, D. (2019). The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt against Empire. American Historical Review, 124(3), 843-877.

Ben-Ghiat, R. (2015, April 9). Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema. New York University. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbFFLXVvtXc&ab_channel=CasaItalianaNYU

Ben-Ghiat, R. (2001). Conquest and Collaboration. In R. Ben-Ghiat, Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945 (pp. 123-170). Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

The Relationship between Nationalism and Internationalism

By Jackie Howell

When discussing nationalist or fascists movements, historians tend to fixate on the regional or national level. Analyzing nationalism through an international lens allows one to identify the interconnectedness of nationalist movements, thus creating a nationalist international against empire. Ironically, nationalism can function simultaneously with internationalism even though internationalism connotes everything nationalists hate. David Motadel highlights the international level of nationalism and fascism, focusing on anticolonial nationalists’ relationships with Nazi Germany. Ruth Ben-Ghiat briefly illustrates how fascist regimes utilize the same tools to further their agenda, as depicted in the cultural exchange network between Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain that rivalled the League of Nations’ cultural internationalism.

Motadel then draws a parallel to the present far-right populist or nationalist movements. As anticolonial nationalists connected over a desire for independence, similar trends are present in the Americas and Western Europe. Anticolonial nationalists saw independence movements as a global act of solidarity against outdated empires. Similarly, Trump supporters, Brexit “Leave” voters, and Europe’s far-right nationalists have morally supported each other’s views. Identifying the far-right as an international far-right fraternity united by nationalism, anti-minority, and anti-multiculturalism sentiment helps explain the modern spread of far-right movements. In the digital media era, an area that Motadel failed to explore, far-right nationalists have connected on various platforms (most notably Twitter and Facebook). There is no longer a strict need for physical transport to mobilize; nationalists can share ideas, strategies, and support with a post, a Tweet, or even by joining a Facebook group. The 21st century differs from the 20th century by providing more efficient means of communication and mobilization. During World War II, Nazi Germany was a financial and political supporter for anticolonial nationalists, creating a power dynamic that favoured the Germans over the nationalists. While far-right nationalists still require some assistance from more powerful states to increase their political agency, social media platforms provide nationalists and grassroots organizations the significant space that Berlin once provided for anticolonial nationalists.

Perhaps the most intriguing international aspect of nationalism is the level of cooperation among nationalist groups. Nationalist movements utilized their connections to further their cause. These relationships illustrate the motives of regimes and the lengths they will go for personal gain. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is most applicable in international nationalism.  It seems contradictory for Nazi Germany to host and interact with anticolonial leaders given Germany’s racist and uncompromising policies. However, the level of cooperation makes sense when one analyzes their motives and objectives. Nazi Germany utilized anticolonial nationalists to undermine their adversaries’ empires while anticolonial nationalists utilized Germany to further their cause for independence. While nationalist movements portray an image of solidarity, the movement is not homogenous. Tensions, divisions, and self-interests taint the cohesive image of far-right movements. The short-term nature of cooperation further proves the instability of an international nationalist movement, which eventually leads back to the rejection of internationalism.


Ben-Ghiat, R. (2004). Conquest or collaboration. In Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945 (pp. 123-130). University of California Press.

Motadel, D. (2019a). The global authoritarian moment: The revolt against empire. American Historical Review, 124(3): 843-877.

Motadel, D. (2019b). The far right says there’s nothing dirtier than internationalism – but they depend on it. The New York Times, nytimes.com/2019/07/03/opinion/the-surprising-history-of-nationalist-internationalism.html

Nationalism for all? Depends who you are

This week’s readings focused mainly on the interesting (and for me fairly unknown) historical aspects of differing regions sharing and joining forces on the nationalism front. Of particular surprise to me centered mainly with David Motadel’s “ The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt against Empire” chapter which was a detailed discussion with regards to the shared interests in seeing the growth nationalism and nationalistic tendencies in differing countries and regions around the world around the time period of the second world war. This was particularly shocking to me, especially while reading passages such as “ Let us think as rulers and let us see in these peoples at best lacquered half monkeys who want to feel the knout” and  “even worse were his and the Nazi elites’ resentments against the peoples of Central Asia and the Caucasus, who were routinely dismissed as subhuman “Asiatics” from the Germany point of view (at least early on during the war). This certainly did not point towards an attitude of someone or a group looking to build massive international coalitions. Another example of this, is described by Ben-Ghiat’s “Conquest and Collaboration”, with the focus specifically on Italian involvement in Ethiopia. For me, given my African background (born to Ghanaian parents), it was intriguing to attempt to read and understand the reasoning behind what the Italians were attempting to do, especially with attitudes expressed such as “‘numeric and geographic expansion of the yellow and black races’ meant that ‘the civilization of the white man is destined to perish’”.

This attitude was apparently not shared to the same degree with the Germans, as space was provided for their disdain of the people residing in the African continent, given the quote from Motadel provided, as “during the war, the Germans showed similar pragmatism when working with Caucasian and Central Asian as well as, though to a lesser extent, sub-Saharan African nationalists.” I suppose, the final quote of the paragraph with the above quotation summarises the sheer confusion and hypocrisy surrounding this policy with the fact that “the Nazi state proved to be increasingly flexible in its racial policies, showing that racisms in practice are often situational, contingent, even arbitrary.” As a result, one of the biggest things I took away from both readings was the contrast between the attitudes seemingly of the German Foreign Ministry to pursue and support a more purely nationalistic agenda withing the numerous countries with their racist attitudes being quite “flexible”. Meanwhile with the Italian model as described by Ben-Ghait, the attitudes towards the region they were looking to exploit was less arbitrary, in addition to the fact that rather preferred to use the country “to perform as a laboratory of the fascist social engineering projects”.

The theme continues, (to a lesser extent) right in to modern day, with Motadel’s shorter NYT article “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism – But they Depend On It”, although I found it rather ironic that the countries one would think would have more similar and shared ideologies, continued to have such deep disagreements between each other.  Perhaps as Motadel explains, this may have to do with the widening of the nationalistic ideology with “the gulf between parochial nationalism and cosmopolitan internationalism (being) too wide to bridge”.